Full disclosure: I am not incentivized by Alaska Airlines to promote their services and credit card.
I was browsing through the inflight materials on a recent Virgin America flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco and came across a leaflet promoting the Alaska Airlines Visa credit card. The offer was similar to what you would typically find on alaskaair.com except one minor yet major difference: an increased targeted sign-up bonus from the standard 30,000 miles to 31,000 miles. To my knowledge, this may be the highest sign-up bonus for this credit card by 1,000 additional Alaska Airlines MileagePlan points.
I know, what's the big deal for just 1,000 additional miles? I would offer similar reactions on other airline cards like the United Explorer or American AAdvantage, but I place significant more value on Alaska than the rest. In this post, I'll share why the new Alaska may be the best new option for West Coast flyers. This is an exciting discovery and one that I'm hoping many of you will take advantage of.
Why Alaska Airlines?
For the record, I've become a big fan of the Alaska brand since their merger with Virgin America. As I covered in a prior post, for a few reasons, I'm considering giving my full loyalty to Alaska starting in 2018.
First, Alaska's expanding route network, particularly out of San Francisco, is quite compelling. The airline recently announced a mega West Coast expansion plan, adding 33 new nonstop destinations from its West Coast hubs. For San Francisco flyers, that includes new nonstop routes to Philadelphia, Nashville, New Orleans, and more. This brings the airlines total number of destinations served across the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean to 118.
Second, Alaska's frequent flyer program, MileagePlan, offers one of the most valuable points currency in the industry, which include great award redemptions on a dozen or so top tier partner airlines including Cathay Pacific, JAL, and British Airways. For just 50,000 miles, you can fly Cathay Pacific Business Class one-way from Asia to the US. That's a bargain.
Last, Alaska remains as one of the few US airlines to offer a distance-based frequent flyer program versus a revenue-based program, making it easier to earn status.
The Card Details
While there are certainly better and more compelling travel credit cards out there, I believe the Alaska Visa card to be the best airline-specific credit card. Aside from the 31,000 miles sign-up bonus (typically just 30,000 miles), the card also offers the airline's annual Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™, first bag checked free on Alaska and Virgin America flights, 3X points per dollar spent on flights with Alaska and Virgin America booked directly, and 1X point per dollar spent on everything else. This card comes with a $75 annual fee.
Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ is a buy one, get one ticket for just the taxes and fees of $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22) every year on your account anniversary valid on Alaska and Virgin America flights. There are no blackout dates. With this promotion, you'll receive this companion certificate after meeting the the $1000 spend requirement in 90 days (above), and a recurring certificate on your account anniversary (below).
How to Sign Up?
According to the leaflet, there are two ways to apply for this targeted offer of 31,000 miles. First, apply onboard with a Virgin America or Alaska flight attendant, or, second, apply online at alaskaoffer.com and include an Employee's ID. While I haven't personally applied for this particular offer, it looks like you're able to include any Virgin America or Alaska employee information on the application, which could be a friend or loved one.
The Alaska Visa card is the best airline-specific credit cards on the marketplace. The card benefits are quite compelling and the miles accrued are valuable for award travel. With this card, you'll receive an annual buy one ticket, get the second one for just the fees and taxes, along with the 31,000 miles for a low spend requirement.
While their earn rate is excellent on flights booked with Alaska and Virgin America at 3X points per dollar, the card otherwise isn't great for everyday purchases on dining or travel at 1X point per dollar, which I would supplement with a different card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve. Overall, I would recommend this card for anyone who is considering flying Alaska and Virgin America more.